RSA RFID System Administrator suite 4.0 – RFID middleware and dashboard
What is an RFID MW?
Software plays a particularly important role in any large-scale RFID rollout, such as those carried out for retailers in the textile and clothing sector. The project may be properly scaled throughout the entire point-of-sale network and adequately maintained only if the software infrastructure has been designed and created with a level of flexibility – if not, it is doomed to failure.
One of the most critical issues in the integration of RFID middleware with legacy retail systems is the fact that the former is structured on the concept of a serial number while the latter have evolved around the SKU – a unique combination of model, color and size. In fact, in the RFID world every item is identified by a unique serial number that distinguishes it from all other instances of the same SKU. Conversely, in resident ERPs, all instances of the same SKU are indistinct. The integration phase must carefully address this issue so that the RFID software can generate consistent legacy data and vice versa. Consider, for example, taking a garment reading at the checkout: in the RFID context, it is important to read the unique serial number so that the right item is discharged form inventory; whereas the legacy priority is to read the SKU in order to establish the sale price. Taking a reading of the barcode price is therefore not sufficient for updating the RFID-based inventory system.
The two primary components that make up the RFID architecture are represented by RFID middleware and the Business Intelligence (BI) dashboard.
RFID middleware (MW) should constitute a comprehensive, flexible and versatile tool for managing RFID systems in their entirety. By means of an intuitive graphical user interface, they enable the control and management phases of the rollout of RFID systems, creating logical processes that represent the functionality to be obtained.
RFID MW facilitates prompt upward integration with several field devices and downward integration with any kind of resident management software. It decouples the logical process from the physical hardware device. Middleware automatically takes care of dialogue with devices, optimizing configurations according to the process with which they are associated and collecting the data read during the execution of these processes. Because the logical process functions independently of the type of physical hardware used, subsequent replacement of the device with another model or vendor should not imply any changes to the previously defined logical process.
Simply put, the RFID MW controls complete processes (for example, mass reading and automatic comparison with a list of expectations), acquires data from the field, filters it and makes it available to resident management systems at the required aggregation level (either serial or SKU). Therefore, the resident management system is decoupled from the management of RFID systems and interaction is limited to a simple mechanism for exchanging data, which can be conducted in a range of ways such as through web services and access to shared DB tables.
Unlike software applications developed ad hoc for a single application, RFID MW therefore makes it possible to:
- rapidly deploy a new RFID system;
- modify existing RFID processes according to functional changes in store requirements;
- expand an existing RFID system to new processes (in the event that they are the same as existing processes, this is a simple ‘copy-paste’ command) or scale the existing system to new stores;
- modify data exchanges for changes in legacy store systems;
- use different hardware devices (the library contains recognised leadership models) both in cases of scaling to new stores and for the replacement of hardware for existing processes, ensuring that retailers can seize the best opportunities that the constantly evolving RFID market continuously offers;
- simplify fine-tuning operations thanks to appropriate utilities;
- make the user independent in simple maintenance applications.
RFID MW should also enable end-user IT resources to independently manage Level I maintenance (e.g. control the operation of devices, vary reading power, replace a device, etc.) calling on the vendor/system integrator only for particular Level II and III cases if necessary.